EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - John Mara came out swinging at the end of the 2013 season, when he famously declared "I think our offense is broken right now." It wasn't long before Kevin Gilbride was out as offensive coordinator and Ben McAdoo was in, and sweeping changes had begun.
What's most amazing about that is that Gilbride's "broken" offense in 2013 was actually a higher scoring attack than McAdoo has produced in his 19 games in the dual role of play-caller and head coach of the Giants. Gilbride's "broken" offense averaged 17.5 points per game (once defensive and special teams touchdowns are factored out). Since the start of last season, McAdoo's offense has averaged 16.6.
So imagine what Mara must be thinking about his offense now.
If this were just two miserable games to start a season that's already on the brink, maybe this would be an overreaction. But the Giants' offensive problems date all the way back to the start of last season. They have gone eight straight games with scoring fewer than 20 points. Overall they've been held under 20 in 12 of the 19 games since the start of last season and they haven't even hit 30 once.
McAdoo's offense is averaging just 324.1 yards (compared to 307.5 in the "broken" season), and that includes an average of just 241.1 in the air (compared to a "broken" 224.2). It's a remarkable drop from McAdoo's two seasons as offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin, when the Giants ranked 10th and eighth respectively and topped 20 points in 24 of 32 games, topped 30 in 12 games, and even topped 40 twice.
Something has clearly gone wrong since McAdoo added "head coach" to his title. The offense is obviously "broken" again. And drastic changes are needed. Even McAdoo conceded as much on Monday afternoon.
"Yeah, we can't keep doing the same thing over and over again," he said. "That's insanity. It's not working. So, we are going to look to make some changes this week, like we did last week. Maybe it will be a little more drastic."
He indicated that every option is on the table. Here are a few suggestions for the changes he should make:
Give up the play-calling
It's clear McAdoo doesn't want to do this and might not, unless it's ordered from above. And it's not like offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is going to have a magic wand to make the line block better or the running backs and receivers become more reliable. But it's clear that McAdoo sometimes gets lost in trying to manage the game and run the offense at the same time. Plus, a fresh approach wouldn't hurt. Sometimes that's enough for a jump-start.
Bench Ereck Flowers
Granted, this is tricky because of the lack of depth, especially if Bobby Hart (ankle) is hurt. But if Hart is OK, it's worth at least trying Justin Pugh -- the Giants' best lineman -- at left tackle, and using Brett Jones at left guard. Flowers just isn't getting any better. Maybe a little time to watch and clear his head will help. Unfortunately the Giants don't have great options, but they have to try something before Eli Manning gets killed.
Start Orleans Darkwa at RB
For several years he's been the lone running back to hit the holes -- such that they are -- with any kind of authority. He runs with power, instead of endlessly dancing behind the line of scrimmage waiting for something to open up. He needs a shot at being the feature back. It won't help if he's hit in the backfield like Paul Perkins often is, but his ability to create a little something out of mostly nothing could make the Giants' second- and third-down plays a little more manageable.
Use the playmakers, not just progressions
In the first half on Monday night, with Odell Beckham, Jr. playing only half the plays, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard were only targeted on one of Manning's nine passes -- combined. The excuse for that, and Manning seemingly ignoring Marshall in the opener, is always that the quarterback goes through his progressions and the defense just takes him to other receivers.
Sometimes it's worth designing a play for a specific player to make sure the best playmakers get involved. A team can't let "progressions" make their top players bystanders. Design quick slants or screens or whatever just to get them involved and see if they can break a tackle. And if you think it can't be done, look back at how the Giants' offense was basically locked in on Beckham late last year.
Use the no-huddle
Finally the Giants have a defense capable of holding up if a failed no-huddle series forces them back onto the field quickly, and what happens? They barely use it. It's not a simple solution and it can't be overused (last season, by the way, they ran the no-huddle on more than 58 percent of their plays), but we've seen over the years how Manning can get into a rhythm when operating quickly -- and McAdoo even acknowledged that last season and vowed to up the tempo.
But with the exception of the last series in Dallas and the final 12 minutes of the loss to Detroit, the Giants have gone no huddle just twice in 81 plays. It would've been three times, but one play was wiped out when Brett Jones was flagged for holding on a 1st-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the third quarter against the Lions.
More Shane Vereen
When the Giants signed him, they billed him as more than just a third-down, two-minute-offense back. They billed him as a weapon, with field-stretching capability. So use him that way. Work him in earlier, maybe even with Darkwa or Perkins in the backfield, too.
Use the fullback
They kept Shane Smith on the roster, but he's played 12 of 113 offensive snaps so far. What a waste, especially when the Giants are having so much trouble running the ball. Maybe putting him in for running plays would be a tell, but so what? If he knocks someone over and clears a hole, who cares?